Can Pranks Get You Arrested?
When a Prank Is Not a Prank: Pranks that Lead to Criminal Charges
Pulling a prank can be hilarious, especially if you're the one doing it. Whether it is covering someone's office with sticky notes or setting up a fake spider to scare your household, pranks can lighten the mood and provide a much-needed break from the monotony of everyday life.
However, not all pranks are created equal, and some could result in serious legal consequences. In Texas, even the mostharmless pranks can lead to criminal charges and even prison time. From assault to criminal mischief, there are a variety of charges that one could face for engaging in what they thought was just a bit of harmless fun.
Many senior pranks or April Fools’ Day jokes can involve a person committing vandalism. This can range from graffiti on public buildings to damage to personal property. In many cases, vandalism pranks may be enacted by juveniles (especially as a part of a senior prank).
In Texas, acts of vandalism are often charged as criminal mischief. According to Texas Penal Code § 28.03, a person commits criminal mischief if they knowingly or intentionally:
damage or destroy someone else’s property,
tamper with someone else’s tangible property in a way that leads to monetary loss or substantial inconveniences, or
makes makings on someone else’s property without the property owner’s consent.
Criminal mischief is a Class C misdemeanor if the financial loss (suffered by the property owner) caused by the vandalism does not exceed $100 or if the act only led to the substantial inconvenience of others. Criminal mischief can also be charged as a:
Class B misdemeanor if the financial loss is between $100 and $750.
Class A misdemeanor if the financial loss is between $750 and $2,500.
State jail felony if the financial loss is between $2,500 and $30,000 or less than $2,500 if the property involved was a fence that contained livestock or game animals or was a habitation or was caused by a firearm or explosive weapon.
Third-degree felony if the financial loss is between $30,000 and $150,000, the act involved the use of a firearm or weapon and led to the death of cattle, bison, or horses, or the accused impeded access to an automated teller machine during the commission of the crimes.
Second-degree felony if the financial loss is between $150,000 and $300,000.
First-degree felony if the financial loss is greater than $300,000.
Another crime offense that a person can be charged with because of a prank is theft. Many pranks may involve taking someone else’s valuable or personal belongings, and if the supposed victim did not realize it was a prank, they may involve the police.
It is also important to note that pranks involving fake robberies or thefts can have serious consequences. Stealing pranks are very popular on YouTube and other social media platforms; while these pranks may get lots of views and laughs, you may face assault charges (because of threats of bodily harm), false report to induce an emergency response charges, or other criminal charges as well as civil charges.
False Reports & False Reports to Induce an Emergency Response
In Texas, it is not only illegal to file a false police report (Texas Penal Code § 37.08), but it is also illegal to make a false report that causes emergency services to be dispatched (see Texas Penal Code § 42.0601). False reports can include bomb threats, fake accidents, and even fake violent attacks.
An example of a false report leading to criminal charges is the case of Randy Wood. Following his divorce, Wood was still suffering emotionally and wanted his ex-wife to feel/understand his pain, so he came up with a plan for a prank.
He asked her to come to his home under false pretenses, and before her arrival, Wood hung himself by the neck from a tree in his yard. While he had on a harness to support himself, his ex-wife did not know or see the harness when she arrived. In a panic, she called the police, and Wood was charged with making a false report that required emergency services.
Assault is another criminal offense that pranksters might be charged with. Pranks that involve physical contact with another person, threats of bodily injury, or bodily injuries to another person can lead to assault charges.
In 2015, two Texas teens faced five felony counts of assault on a public servant because of a prank that went awry. Joseph Tellini and Ian Walker were friends that, as a part of their senior prank, gave their schoolteachers and administrators spiked muffins. Laced with marijuana, the muffins led to the hospitalization of 18 staff members, and investigators initially were worried the offense was an act of domestic terrorism.
As we mentioned, other pranks like fake robberies can also lead to assault charges. In Texas, the penalties for assault depend on the type of assault committed. Simple assault is a Class A, B or C misdemeanor and can be punishable by up to $500 in fines. Aggravated assault is a second-degree felony with punishments including 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Facing Criminal Charges? Contact Our Firm.
The Clark Law Firm handles a wide range of criminal defense matters, including juvenile crimes, theft crimes, and violent crimes. If you or a loved one have been arrested or are under criminal investigation for a prank gone awry, our attorneys are here and equipped to help you defend your rights and freedom.
Learn more about how our firm can help you by calling (817) 435-4970.